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    Friday, February 03, 2023

    Child and Family Agency to open a 24/7 Urgent Crisis Center for youth in the region

    New London ― The Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut plans to open a 24/7 Urgent Crisis Center in the city for youth facing a mental health crisis that does not require hospitalization.

    The agency provides child and adult behavior care in the region. The crisis center will be at its former outpatient clinic on 255 Hempstead St. and serve youth from New London, Windham and Middlesex counties.

    “I’m really excited for the opportunity,” said Erin Saylor, CFA’s the managing director of behavioral health services, who will run the program. “Kids will be in a crisis and need additional support.”

    The location has a special permit granted in 1978 to allow outpatient behavioral health services from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    On Thursday night, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved to modify the hours to 24 hours a day all week. There was no public comment during the public hearing.

    Barry Levine, chair of the commission, said this made sense as children do not plan a crisis during regular business hours. He nosted that there would be security guards.

    “Under these new services, CFA would serve up to 12 children and adolescents per day,” said CEO Allison Blake in a letter to the commission. “They would stay for an average of four hours, during which time they would be assessed and connected to ongoing supportive services in the community.”

    Lisa Otto, CFA’s chief operating officer, told the commission the goal is to alleviate the number of children and teens that end up in the emergency room when they really need people to examine and deescalate the situation.

    Saylor said this includes scenarios where a child or teenager has made suicidal plans, has homicidal tendencies or there was a family conflict.

    Although the ER can be helpful, Saylor said it is focused on medical stability and does not have the capacity to do a full diagnostic. She said the crisis center would work to understand the diagnostic and create a treatment plan to stabilize the family long term.

    The new programming was made possible with a $2.6 million grant from the state Department of Children and Families to CFA. Otto said three other centers are being placed across different regions in the state.

    The security plan for the center was detailed in a letter to Chief of Police Brian Wright by Lisa Baxter, CFA’s chief financial and administrative officer. In it, Baxter explains that there will be two full-time security guards who will work from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. all week, coinciding with high volume times. She said there will always be a minimum of three staff working, installed cameras and a buzzer system for after hours.

    Saylor said the staff will typically consist of a behavioral health clinician, registered nurse and a client support specialist with additional staff during the busiest hours. She said the agency is anticipating the clinic to open in March but the building has to go through renovations first.

    Saylor said the agency is going to be hiring 25 new positions for the program and will host a job fair Dec. 15 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce in Westerly.

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